In 1800 a plebiscite was taken to support Napoleon’s constitution. Napoleon made many changes such as lycees, concordat, and the Napoleonic code. In 1804 Napoleon decided to make himself emperor and the French people supported that.
Napoleon begins taking over many countries in Europe. He is a brilliant military general and easily achieves many victories.Britain convinced Russia, Austria, and Sweden to join them in a coalition against France. This was known as the Third Coalition.
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In his war against the Third Coalition Napoleon only lost one major battle to Britain.The naval defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar showed that Napoleon was not very good at fighting at sea.Why would this be a problem for him?
From 1807 – 1812 Napoleon had a strong empire. Many European countries were either loosely or completely under his control. The French Empire was huge, but unstable, and Napoleon continued to push for more power.
In November 1806 Napoleon ordered a blockade of England known as the Continental System – European countries under were not supposed to trade with England at all. Napoleon thought this would make them weak. The other countries in Napoleon’s Empire were still smuggling goods to Britain, and Napoleon couldn’t stop them. Britain decided to blockade Napoleon’s Empire back. Britain’s navy was stronger than Napoleon’s so Britain’s blockade worked, Napoleon’s didn’t.
Portugal refused to take part in the continental system. Napoleon was not pleased with this so he sent troops through Spain to attack Portugal. Spanish towns didn’t like this so they rioted in protest. 1808 – 1813 Spanish guerillas attacked the French armies stationed there. This caused Napoleon to have to send extra troops and resulted in the death of 300,000 men. This was known as the Peninsular War.
In 1812 the Russian Tsar Alexander refused to stop trading with Britain so Napoleon decided to invade. When Napoleon’s army finally arrived in Russia Alexander refused to fight them. He ordered his troops to pull back and he used a scorched earth policy. When Napoleon and his troops entered Moscow they found that Alexander had set fire to the entire city and it was ruined. Napoleon stayed there for weeks thinking Alexander would return to make peace but he never did. Finally in October Napoleon had no choice but to make his starving troops turn back. On the way back they encountered the Russian winter. The soldiers were in no way prepared and were annihilated by it. Napoleon was left with only 10,000 soldiers.
Despite his losses in Russia Napoleon did manage to raise another army, but these soldiers were inexperienced. In 1813 he faced his enemies in the city of Leipzig. In battle the weakness showed. By January 1814 armies of Austrians, Russians and Prussians were pushing their way towards Paris. Napoleon wanted to fight, but his generals refused. Napoleon was defeated. He was 45 years old.
Napoleon was exiled with a small pension to an island called Elba. With Napoleon gone Louis XVIII brother of Louis XVI returned to be king of France. The people weren’t happy. Napoleon thought he could gain power again. He escaped from Elba and returned to the French mainland. Once there he rallied supporters to join his army and marched to Paris. Louis XVIII fled.
Once the European allies heard of his return they gathered up their armies. The battle of Waterloo took place in Belgium on June 15, 1815. After two days Napoleon and his troops retreated. The battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon’s attempt to regain power. His attempt was know as the Hundred Days. To make sure Napoleon was gone for good this time they sent him to the far off island of St. Helena. He lived there on his own for six years before he died in 1821. He died of a stomach ailment or cancer, but there is a conspiracy theory that he was poisoned.